Pepe Escobar: Westward ho on China’s Eurasia BRIC road

Pepe Escobar March 21, 2015 16 Comments
Empire of Chaos, Pepe Escobar
“…it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger (to the U.S.)

emerges capable of dominating Eurasia

and thus also of challenging America”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, 1997

What’s in a name, rather an ideogram? Everything. A single Chinese character – jie (for “between”) – graphically illustrates the key foreign policy initiative of the new Chinese dream.

In the upper part of the four-stroke character – which, symbolically, should be read as the roof of a house – the stroke on the left means the Silk Road Economic Belt, and the stroke on the right means the 21st century Maritime Silk Road. In the lower part, the stroke on the left means the China-Pakistan corridor, via Xinjiang province, and the stroke on the right, the China-Myanmar-Bangladesh-India corridor via Yunnan province.

Chinese culture feasts on myriad formulas, mottoes – and symbols. If many a Chinese scholar worries about how the Middle Kingdom’s new intimation of soft power may be lost in translation, the character jie – pregnant with connectivity – is already the starting point to make 1.3 billion Chinese, plus the overseas Chinese diaspora, visualize the top twin axis – continental and naval – of the New Silk Road vision unveiled by President Xi Jinping, a concept also known as “One Road, One Belt”.

In practical terms, it also helps that the New Silk Road will be boosted by a special, multi-billion-dollar Silk Road Fund and the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which, not by accident, has attracted the attention of European investors.

The New Silk Road, actually roads, symbolizes China’s pivot to an old heartland: Eurasia. That implies a powerful China even more enriched by its environs, without losing its essence as a civilization-state. Call it a post-modern remix of the Tang, Sung and early Ming dynasties – as Beijing deftly and recently stressed via a superb exhibition in the National Museum of China consisting of rare early Silk Road pieces assembled from a range of regional museums.

In the past, China had a unifying infrastructure enterprise like the Great Wall. In the future it will have a major project of unifying Eurasia via high-speed rail. When one considers the breadth of this vision, depictions of Xi striving to be an equal of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping sound so pedestrian.

Of course China’s new drive may be interpreted as the stirrings of a new tributary system, ordered and centered in Beijing. At the same time, many in the U.S. are uncomfortable that the New Silk Road may be a geopolitical, “peaceful development”, “win-win” answer to the Obama administration’s Pentagon-driven pivoting to Asia.

Beijing has been quick to dismiss any notions of hegemony. It maintains this is no Marshall Plan. It’s undeniable that the Marshall Plan “covered only Western nations and excluded all countries and regions the West thought were ideologically close to the Soviet Union”. China, on the other hand, is focused on integrating “emerging economies” into a vast, pan-Eurasian trade/commerce network.

Achtung! Seidenstrasse! (Attention! Silk Road!)

It’s no wonder top nations in the beleaguered EU have gravitated to the AIIB – which will play a key role in the New Silk Road(s). A German geographer – Ferdinand von Richthofen – invented the Seidenstrasse (Silk Road) concept. Marco Polo forever linked Italy with the Silk Road. The EU is already China’s number one trade partner. And, once again symbolically, this happens to be the 40th year of China-EU relations. Watch the distinct possibility of an emerging Sino-European Fund that finances infrastructure and even green energy projects across an integrated Eurasia.

It’s as if the Angel of History – that striking image in a Paul Klee painting eulogized by philosopher Walter Benjamin – is now trying to tell us that a 21st century China-EU Seidenstrasse synergy is all but inevitable. And that, crucially, would have to include Russia, which is a vital part of the New Silk Road through an upcoming, Russia-China financed $280 billion high-speed rail upgrade of the Trans-Siberian railway. This is where the New Silk Road project and President Putin’s initial idea of a huge trade emporium from Lisbon to Vladivostok actually merge.

In parallel, the 21st century Maritime Silk Road will deepen the already frantic trade interaction between China and Southeast Asia by sea. Fujian province – which faces Taiwan – will play a key role. Xi, crucially, spent many years of his life in Fujian. And Hong Kong, not by accident, also wants to be part of the action.

All these developments are driven by China being finally ready to become a massive net exporter of capital and the top source of credit for the Global South. In a few months, Beijing will launch the China International Payment System (CIPS), bound to turbo-charge the yuan as a key global currency for all types of trade. There’s the AIIB. And if that was not enough, there’s still the New Development Bank, launched by the BRICs to compete with the World Bank, and run from Shanghai.

It can be argued that the success of the entire Silk Road hinges on how Beijing will handle restive, Uyghur-populated Xinjiang – which should be seen as one of key nodes of Eurasia. This is a subplot – fraught with insecurity, to say the least – that should be followed in detail for the rest of the decade. What’s certain is that most of Asia will feel the tremendous pull of China’s Eurasian drive.

And Eurasia – contrary to perennial Brzezinski wishful thinking – will likely take the form of a geopolitical challenge: A de facto China-Russia strategic partnership that manifests itself in various facets of the New Silk Road that also bolsters the strength of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

By then, both Iran and Pakistan will be SCO members. The close relations between what was ancient Persia and China span two millennia – and now they are viewed by Beijing as a matter of national security. Pakistan is an essential node of the Maritime Silk Road, especially when one considers the Indian Ocean port of Gwadar, which in a few years may double as a key transit point of the IP or Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. It may also be the starting point of yet another major Chinese Pipelineistan gambit parallel to the Karakorum highway, delivering gas to Xinjiang.

Beijing values both Iran and Pakistan – the intersection of Southwest Asia and South Asia – as fundamentally strategic nodes of the New Silk Road. This allows China to project trade/commerce power not only in the Indian Ocean but the Persian Gulf.

Got vision, will travel

Washington’s alarm at these developments betrays the glaring absence of an enticing made -in-the-USA vision to woo pan-Eurasian public opinion – apart from a hazy military pivoting posture mixed with relentless NATO expansion, and the TTIP “free trade” corporate racket, also known across Asia as “NATO on trade”.

The counter punch to the above could be already coming via the BRICs; the SCO; the non-stop strengthtening of the China-Russia strategic partnership. There’s also the expansion of the Eurasian Union (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia – with Kyrgyzstan soon acceding, followed by Tajikistan). In the Middle East, Syria is seriously studying the possibility, and a trade agreement with Egypt has already been clinched. In Southeast Asia, a pact with Vietnam will be a done deal by the end of 2015.

Russia and China’s “secret” agenda in helping to clinch an Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal paves the way for Tehran to be admitted to the SCO as a full member. Expect, as early as 2016, an SCO alignment that unites at least 60% of Eurasia, with a population of 3.5 billion people and a wealth of oil and gas that more than matches the Gulf Cooperation Council states.

So the real story is not how China will collapse, as peddled by David Shambaugh, the so-called second top China expert in the U.S. (who’s the first? Henry Kissinger?) This is a line that’s been soundly debunked by many sources. The real story, which a revived Asia Times will be covering in detail in upcoming years, is how the myriad aspects of the New Silk Road will be configuring a new Eurasian dream. Have vision, will travel. Bon voyage.

Pepe Escobar’s latest book is

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Fonte: Asia Times

Is there any way to break the Doha Round impasse in agriculture negotiations?


Andrew L. Stoler 08 October 2014

The structure of the Doha Round

The origins of the current impasse can be found in political and structural mistakes made at Doha in 2001. So long as these mistakes remain uncorrected, there is no hope for successful completion of the Doha agricultural negotiations. And without agriculture, there is no hope for the Round overall.

Adopting a ‘single undertaking’ approach to the negotiations – where all members are expected to be a party to all negotiations and results – was a serious, and I will argue, totally unnecessary political mistake.

In 2001, many would have argued that the Uruguay Round agriculture negotiations produced a ‘sloppy result’ where big players like the US and the European Community had far too much flexibility in how they implemented their commitments.

Reacting to this, developing modalities for the Doha negotiations that attempted to cover every single concern for every one of the more than 160 participants, without the national flexibilities that were accommodated in the Uruguay Round, is our big structural mistake.

These mistakes created a situation where very little happened in the Doha talks between 2004 and 2008, and virtually nothing has happened in the six years since 2008.

Bali Package

The so-called ‘Bali Package’ offered some hope to multilateralists that the single undertaking approach might yet be applicable. It seemed as though consensus agreement was reached on a package of measures that would allow Doha to progress. But when India and a few disreputable allies killed the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the end of July, we saw again just how unworkable the single-undertaking approach really is.

Anyway, even if the Facilitation Agreement package had gone through, what would have been the implications for the Doha Round of the Bali Package?

What happened at Bali on agriculture was never more than an illusion of progress. We all know that the real problem in the Doha agriculture talks is the market access pillar. This is where things blew up in 2008, and nothing in the Bali Package does anything to move this part of the talks forward. If we want to break the impasse, we need to fix the mistakes referred to earlier.

Critical mass

For a number of years now, negotiators seem to have been operating under the assumption that single undertaking agreements are the normal way of negotiating in the multilateral system. This is wrong. Historically, most of the important steps forward have come through critical-mass agreements. This is true for market access, and it is also true for rules.

What is a critical-mass agreement? It’s an opt-in agreement among a subset of WTO members who agree that the portion of international trade in a particular sector that they collectively account for is sufficient for them to conclude a trade deal among themselves. Other members only marginally involved in the trade need not participate and the insiders accepting the critical-mass agreement’s obligations agree to provide the benefits of the agreement to all WTO Members on a Most Favoured Nation (MFN) basis. Examples of WTO-era critical-mass agreements include the 1996 Information Technologies Agreement and the 1997 Telecommunications Services Agreement.

But a critical-mass agreement wouldn’t work for agriculture, would it?

Simulating critical mass

In fact, it would work, and in 2009 researchers from Australia, India, China, Indonesia, and Brazil collaborated on a research project that demonstrated just how well – from a technical standpoint – a critical-mass approach to agriculture could work.

In our 2009 project, we used the International Trade Centre’s ‘Market Access Map’ database to identify the most-traded 30 agricultural products (at the six-digit level of the Harmonised System) and a group of 38 WTO member countries that account for 80% or more of that trade across all 30 products. We modelled the benefits of an agreement among these 38 members on these 30 products and compared the results against the likely results of a single undertaking negotiation concluded on the basis of the 2008 draft modalities.

If the Doha Round modalities of December 2008 were implemented, we projected a static net global welfare gain of almost $15 billion. A critical mass agreement that substantially eliminated duties on just 30 products among 38 countries would achieve about two-thirds of the same level of gains. If, however, the 38 countries agreed that it would be unfeasible to maintain trade-distorting production subsidies (‘amber-box’) once borders were open and eliminated both those subsidies and all forms of export subsidy, the gains from a critical-mass approach on the 30 products almost double to $19 billion.

In other words, our simulations showed that, under reasonable assumptions about what would be a feasible coalition of interest in opening world agriculture markets (the ‘critical mass’ coalition), and what the scope of such an agreement would be, a technically simple agreement engaging less than one quarter of all WTO members would achieve a significantly bigger global result than the laborious, complex modalities of the global Doha Round.

What about the politics? Would a critical-mass approach to agriculture negotiations be politically feasible?

At the end of our research project in 2009, we organised a small conference in Canberra where we heard the views of representatives from the EU, Brazil, Australia, and the US. The government representatives at the conference pointed out a number of problems they saw with adopting a critical mass approach for future negotiations on agriculture, including:

  • A mercantilist-motivated need to obtain concessions in other sectors to balance the losses in an agriculture negotiation;
  • An inability to tolerate ‘free-riders’ (like India) should a major developing country elect to stay out of the agreement; and
  • The perceived risk that a critical mass approach to agriculture would contribute to a multi-speed WTO system.

What the conference discussion revealed is that governments believed they were stuck with an approach that is not working, but they were still not willing to consider seriously moving to another framework such as the critical mass.

Colleagues who have contributed to the debate on this question have observed – quite rightly – that many of the ‘problem’ countries in the agriculture negotiations have been countries like Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Japan … and the US and EU. They wonder how the negotiation could be made easier by eliminating (through critical mass) many of the small developing countries and problematic players like India and Indonesia. I do not for a minute think that the other problem countries would jump onto a critical-mass approach in moments, but it would have to be easier if we did not have to worry about all of the small, vulnerable economies (SVEs) and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.


It seems to me that the fact that many of the countries that want to see some multilateral progress have exited the single undertaking in the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) negotiations shows they might be willing to consider a similar approach in the agriculture sector. And remember that we advocate getting rid of the Doha agriculture modalities and returning to a simpler, more flexible approach that many governments would find (I think) politically easier to use as a basis for negotiations (a good number of the overly complex draft Doha agriculture modalities were designed to deal with problems of countries that would be outside of our critical-mass approach).

The WTO got a small breath of life in Bali, but the multilateral trading system negotiations based on a single undertaking have now been discredited again by the actions of India and its rag-tag allies at the end of July.

Maybe governments are now more willing than they were in 2009 to consider an alternative approach. Maybe they are not. But sooner or later, somebody has to think outside the box.

Fonte: VOX

Leonardo Ramos: “BRICS no G20: Há um modelo alternativo de desenvolvimento?”


O professor Leonardo Ramos publicou na última edição da revista Contracorrente o artigo abaixo – uma versão resumida e com poucas alterações do artigo “Potências médias emergentes e reforma da arquitetura financeira mundial? Uma análise do BRICS no G20”, que será publicado na Revista de Sociologia e Política.

Conforme o professor: A partir de 2000, na cúpula de Okinawa, o sistema G7/8 começou um movimento de outreach, ou seja, tanto de “alcançar” aqueles que se encontravam fora quanto de “expandir” o sistema G7/8. Neste sentido, pela primeira vez países não-participantes do sistema G7/8 foram envolvidos tanto em encontros do G8 quanto em consultas pré-cúpula. Neste processo a cúpula de Gleneagles (2005) foi um marco, pois nesta pela primeira vez há um documento conjunto emitido por Brasil, Índia, China, África do Sul e México (BICSAM). Tal articulação ocorre até a cúpula de L’Aquila (2009); não obstante, como desde 2008 o G20 vem lidando com tais questões como um fórum de líderes e a partir de 2009 o BRIC passa a se reunir como coalizão, tal articulação paralela ao sistema G7/8 perde sua relevância. Neste contexto, uma questão que surge diz respeito à relação entre BRICS e G20. Como se dá a ação de tal coalizão emergente neste fórum?

Clique aqui para acessar o artigo na íntegra.

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